Since i was a child my Father told me stories about how he and my Grandfather often used to pick mushrooms in the Bavarian Forest (Germany). Since then i have always wanted the chance to forage and pick my own fresh mushrooms! Maybe it’s the excitement of foraging, or maybe even just knowing you’re going to get nothing fresher. Or possibly just the fact i like eating mushrooms! But where to go mushroom picking in Sydney?
After the typical internet search we found some information, but not a great deal. Only recently it has been updated to offer a bit more in-depth detail of where to go. From our research we found that you can go mushroom picking in the Blue Mountains (Oberon) and also Belanglo State Forest (hello Ivan, eek!) (of course few other locations as well but these are the most recommended and closest). Continuing our research on identification of what is and is not poisonous, even what can be physically touched, we were determined to go on when they were in season and forage… and eventually eat!
By reading this we gather you have also decided that you also may want to go Mushroom Picking! Great, with this in mind we have a few suggestions to hopefully help and guide you through a day of foraging. So where to go mushroom picking?
Firstly, only pick what you’re actually going to eat and use, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a fungal fantasy foraging through a dark forest for that next mushroom until 20kgs later you’re all fun-galled out (haha). Secondly and most importantly is, wear warm clothing and proper shoes as you are in a FOREST and it is muddy and slippery! It frustrates me to no end when we see locals and tourists wearing thongs or open shoes in the middle of the bush / forest when hiking or doing activities. Be realistic and prepare! Lastly, pack for the day including food, water and some tea/or coffee maybe also.
When can you go? They recommend between late-February and early-May, however saying this this year (2016) the weather has been quite warm and not much rainfall recently. You can take your chances, but remember mushrooms do like a rainfall so a couple days rain before you head out would offer the ideal conditions. Alternatively, give the information centre a call.
Next is choosing a location. Oberon in the Blue Mountains is the most common for Mushroom Picking, however you can also go to Belanglo State Forest. Oberon is approx 180km drive from Sydney City and will take close to 3 hours to drive one way.
If you do choose Oberon, i would suggest to stop past the Oberon Visitor Information Centre which you can speak to some experts in where the best picking is on that day, and also provide you with some leaflets and maps that will help you identify the mushrooms. Alternatively you can also call during the week to check how the season is starting with, they are quite helpful with this.
Directions: Head up the M4 Motorway to Blue Mountains, follow the signs to Oberon.
Belanglo State Forest is only about 1.5 hour drive south bound from Sydney City (along the M5 Motorway) and has quite a lot of saffron milk caps (Pine Mushrooms) and slippery jacks. It really is a beautiful forest with tall majestic pine trees that of course contain pine mushrooms below for you to forage and pick. Searching for Belanglo State Forest and you will find some interesting history, whilst it is a little concerning of course like any location you go to we always suggest to let someone know where you’re going as naturally you are in a forest and can get lost or hurt yourself by accident – otherwise don’t be concerned as there are quite a lot of other people foraging as well.
Directions: Take the M5 Motorway and take the Bunnygalore Rd west Exit. This will take you into the Entry of the forest. Normal vehicles can access the dirt roads easily.
In this post we were in the Belanglo State Forest, this is accessible by a normal vehicle as mentioned above, however expect it to become a little dirty and it is suggested that you park off the road as there are not only other foragers, explorers and sightseers but also foresting trucks that use the road 7 days a week.
The biggest concern for you and of naturally for us is “how safe is it”, for both the mushrooms and the location! We felt safe foraging, and if you follow guidelines and only pick what you can identify as safe you will have a great time foraging. The saying is “if in doubt, go without”. There are plenty to search for, enjoy the day and forest… err forage!
Onto the mushrooms! You will find a mixture of mushrooms, most unfortunately will not be edible and quite a lot are poisonous! Why would you go you’re thinking? Well, foraging for mushrooms is actually interesting, relaxing and fun. It’s definitely something we would recommend doing if you get the chance. Please be aware that some of the most beautiful mushrooms are in fact poisonous, and it is very important not to touch, disturb or kick these as their spores can easily release toxins into the air (or your shoes, or clothes) which could be quite harmful to you or your foraging partner! If you’re wanting to take kids, you will have to be on high alert and be very careful that they do not touch anything so it may not be the ideal day for the kids as after all kids love to touch everything!
There are generally only 2 recommended ‘safe mushrooms’ for visitors. There are so many other fungi / mushrooms that are beautiful and unique, however they are either poisonous or not edible. Some pictured below, click into the image and it’ll tell you whether or not they are safe.
Fly Agaric. The most beautiful, however the most poisonous. You cannot eat these, nor should you touch them. Photograph and admire, that is all! Pictured in red with white ‘dots’.
The Saffron Milk Cap – commonly known as the Pine Mushroom (found in some fruit shops) “lacterius deilcosus” are usually growing very low and hidden beneath pine needles (pine tree leaves if you will). The best way to spot them is to keep your eye out looking for any little mounds of pine tree needles where pine mushrooms will be pushing its way through from the soil below. If you spot a mushroom, gently move away the needles to show the mushroom. Cut the mushroom at the bottom of the stem ONLY, then re-cover with the needles again so they will return for you and others next year to pick again. You can easily identify these, see below in these images.
The Slippery Jack – commonly known as ‘wow thats grose’ “suillus luteus” are brown with a shiny slimy clearish film on top of them, they are quite obvious due to sliminess. Underneath they have yellow pores. You do have to wash and peel these before eating them just in case you’re wondering.
Keep an eye out for wildlife as well, you’ll stumble upon dozens of burrows varying in sizes from Foxes, Wombats and other native animals, Kangaroos and of course plenty of beautiful birds. We were actually lucky to see quite a lot of Black Cockatoos!
What to bring:
- A small knife or pocket knife.
- Rubbish bag
- Lunch & Snacks
- Tea or Coffee
- Warm clothing & suitable enclosed (hiking) shoes (or gumboots)
- 2nd pair of shoes to change back when you leave (leaving the dirt ones in the boot in the bag!)
- Basket for collecting mushrooms
- Gloves as pine mushrooms can cause slight orange fingers
- Box to store your mushrooms when you leave
- Hand wipes to clean your hands afterwards
- Torch & a compass (crazy i know, technology doesn’t always help!)
Lastly, how do you cook or prepare what you have picked? Especially when you’re picking for wild mushrooms!
Everyone has their own tastes and style of cooking with mushrooms.
Preparation, the pine mushrooms are usually covered (the big orange ones) in dirt, debris and pine. Give them a good wash and rub down with your fingers to remove anything of concern. The ‘slimey’ mushrooms (the slipper jack) will have to be washed and peel these before eating them.
Still confused? Want a bit more information, send us an email and we’ll do our best to help!
PS. If you see us around, be sure to come and say hello!
Belanglo State Forest Google map reference:
Oberon, Blue Mountains Google map reference: